Posted by: kurtsh | February 5, 2006

COMMENTARY: The ‘Blackberry workaround’

It would appear that several people have written about the purported Blackberry workaround that RIM has planned in order to circumvent the restrictions placed on them by NTP’s patents on messaging push/forwarding technology.

Now for the record, I know only what I’ve read on the Internet, but this is my take on what they’re allegedly doing in a nutshell and what the implications may be… in my opinion:

THE BLACKBERRY WORKAROUND:

  1. Current Blackberry devices will be switched over to a ‘workaround mode’ at RIM’s NOC where a Blackberry device receives pushed "links" to email messages whose ‘body’ content are still stored remotely.  These "links" themselves have the ‘subject’ and relevant To: and Cc: information in them to allow people to understand the email context.  When clicked, the link pulls down the email body on-demand which takes 1-2 seconds.
  2. This purportedly gets around the legal troubles RIM has had because allegedly the NTP patents cover one-way email messaging transmission only according to web sites I’ve read.  They do not cover two-way on-demand pulls of email based on "header" delivery, which in it of themselves are not qualified as "emails", thus RIM never actually pushes an email to the device.  The end user ‘pulls’ the email on-demand when they want to read it.

The upside of all of this is that no Blackberry ROM changes or Blackberry Enterprise Server changes are required.  All changes are done at the RIM Network Operations Center.

There are however problems with all of this:

THE WORKAROUND’S DOWNSIDES:

  • Customers will find that they lose productivity by finding themselves reading email slower, and it’ll be annoyingly apparent to every user.  The opening of these links result in a 1-2 second delay as the content is pulled down over GPRS networks.  This pause will probably make users ‘less productive’ in rapidly clearing SPAM and mails they don’t care about.  And let’s not kid ourselves… clearing our Inbox through our mobile devices is supposed to be a quick process.  Anyone that’s done this knows what I’m talking about.
  • Customers will lose productivity by no longer having offline usage.  Since the devices rely on having cellular access to pull down the body of email messages, if you aren’t in range of the network, you can’t read email.  People that work in buildings… people that take the train… people that work part of the day in areas uncovered by their cellular network… they’re all going to discover that their devices are paper weights during these time periods because they don’t actually have email on them… just the headers and links to the body content.

WHY WINDOWS MOBILE?

Windows Mobile devices, like the Palm Treo 700w, the Samsung i730, and the Verizon/Sprint XV6700, all have great keyboards, small form factors, and rich interfaces with always-up-to-date email available on them through a Pocket version of Outlook.  But what sets Windows Mobile apart is the manner in which mail is delivered:

  • For older Windows Mobile 2003 devices, Windows Mobile phones receive specially encoded/encrypted SMS text messages through the carrier network from the Exchange Server at your company.  These text messages act as ‘wake-up’ calls to your phone to initiate a pull of new email from the server.  This includes both the header as well as the body and it’s attachments.  The benefit of this is that the Exchange Server is extremely scalable and can handle 10,000 users or more while the device allows for offline email reading while delivering email nearly immediately.  Additionally, no service charges outside of cellular data network charges are required, meaning customers don’t pay RIM for anything.  The one drawback is that each phone must purchase a plan with text messaging however many networks provide this service for free or at a low cost.
  • For newer Windows Mobile 5.0 devices, Windows Mobile phone establish a persistent HTTP connection between the Exchange Server and itself.  The Exchange Server sends a ‘ping’ to the device to notify it that there is new mail available.  Upon notification, the phone wakes up and pulls down any new email – headers, body, and attachments.  The benefit of this is that new devices no longer need SMS text messaging services in their phone plans, they receive email almost immediately, and they also have offline usage of email on their devices.  And again, no service charges outside of cellular data network charges are required. 

Imagine not having to write a check to RIM every year for simple mobile email support.  That’s Windows Mobile.


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